The speaker at our December meeting was Jeff Curtis, Chairman of the Shepton Mallet United Charities, incorporating the Almshouse Charity of George and William Strode of 1627, supplemented by Edward Strode in 1699, Elizabeth Strode in 1712 and Mary Anne Wickham in 1864.
Jeff gave us an informative talk about the work and history of the charity, an organisation that has been serving the local community for nearly 400 years.
“Ordinary people looking after ordinary people”, is the phrase adopted by the trustees of the United Charities to describe what they do and who they are and indeed their history is full of human resource as well as human failure. This was not how it was seen by the trustees in days gone by when it was given that you should be a person of standing or, at least, a gentleman.
The first mention of Alms people in Shepton is in 1619 when the will of Thomas White, a cordwainer (shoe maker), required that the rents from four houses in Shoe Lane, London be applied to poor persons in Shepton Mallet. Some years later, on 4 May (Ascension Day) 1627, the Strode family who were important West Country landowners, set up the School and Almshouses Charity. The Almshouses in Shepton Mallet are the Strode Almshouses, in Church Lane on the south side of the church, the Wickham Almshouses on the north side of the church and three properties at Milliner Court. Shepton Mallet Almshouses has an historic link to its surrounding villages, from Emborough in the north to Lydford in the south and from Croscombe to Batcombe, an area that the Shepton Mallet District covered until 1974. With limited space available in this newsletter it is difficult to include all of the 400 years of information in the talk so, for those who are interested in reading more about the work of the United Charities and their trustees please do visit the website, www.alms1627.org.uk for more details.